Scarlet Letters

This confessional from a "reformed" bike reviewer has been making the serious rounds lately. To be honest (a theme which will carry through this post), it wasn't much of a revelation. Pay to play isn't anything new, and while we wouldn't necessarily expect you to know about it, we sure do. But then Mike sent me this yesterday, and it made us both really glad. Apologies are wonderful and all, but they aren't magical "make everything better and remove the original sin" cards. 

Brief interlude here. Before I go further, we've had to apologize - absolutely. Yesterday I had to, as we're late on delivery of a set of wheels and we didn't do the job we could have of keeping the customer informed. We've missed shipping extra brake pads and shipped two front skewers and various things like that. We've had warranty stuff happen, too. We're not perfect, we've never claimed to be, and we seem to proclaim our imperfection more often than most. Interlude over.

Like any other company in the bike business, we've struggled to define what differentiates us. Of course we think our wheels (and whatever else we sell, but really we sell wheels) are pretty crazy nice. Even if we're using the same parts and pieces as others, there's still the small matter of assembly, which really isn't a small matter at all. It's not always perfect, but man is it good, and consistent, and we're always trying to make it better. Rail 52s are still fast, still incredibly easy to handle, and still corner so well it's almost unfair, and we keep working to make them better and better. 

The value of our products is of course very strong relative to alternatives. There's no magic behind it, it's just a case of empathy. We're not quite 100% ready to go open book on showing our costs, but it's something we've toyed with for sure. We think the more likely backlash if we did that would be of the "you guys actually aren't charging enough" variety, rather than the other way. But it would just be too disruptive, and we don't want to spend 2016 talking about that. But the point is that our pricing is exceptionally customer friendly, which wouldn't matter if we didn't use exclusively products that we've vetted extensively and that we wouldn't feel great about having any rider in the world use and evaluate us on. 

Our service is good, too. We definitely count the blog as service - even though it comes with a scarlet asterix of being "the world according to our perspective." More on that in a minute. When our email system isn't fouled up and your spam filters aren't on hyperdrive, you can expect responses from us within surprising time frames. And though we can't always provide the depth of response that people are looking for (some of which, literally, would take a week to reserach and write), we always give the most complete and straightforward response that we can. We try super hard to get you to your best wheel solution, and when we aren't it we'll tell you right away. Warranties get handled promptly. We're proud of all that.

But really, the first decision that we ever made defines us, and that decision was to be profoundly honest. Say, for instance, a company goes out to the world and says "this is our super rad new frameset that we designed from scratch and it's ours and ours alone and you should but it, it's super awesome. Party!" And then they say "okay, it's not exactly precisely exclusively ours, but we did specify the layup and it's super awesome and you should still buy it. Party!" And then they say "okay, it's actually precisely the same frame as is being sold here and here for profoundly less but you should still buy it from us because we're rad and it's an awesome paint job. Party!" If they do that, why would you ever take them at their word again. And yes, I'm talking about the company you think I'm talking about, and the crime here is abso-f'ing-lutely NOT us calling them out for something that's super well documented to have happened. Their paint jobs ARE awesome, and they do in fact do some cool stuff, but there's a level of credibility they'll never have in my opinion. When we sold open mold frames, you knew it from the word go, and in the rare instances when you could find them elsewhere, we offered at least as good a value as you could find. 

Or when a company sells thousands and thousands of wheels based on one bullet-proof iron-clad can't-miss "we even used COMPUTERS!" wind angle (aka yaw) analysis, telling you that based on this flawless analysis that their wheels are definitely the best, and then turns around a few years later and says "our new wheels are better because we found out that you actually experience these other wind angles way way more when you ride so you should buy the new ones." Really? I mean, according to their new wind angle analysis, a Rail 52 is faster than a Firecrest 404 because it's better at shallow wind angles. And based on a pretty simple but very time consuming analysis, we knew when we sat down to design the 52 that you really ride in low angles. But how did we present the situation? Using the broadly accepted Tour Magazine wind angle weighting protocol, which showed our wheel performing realtively less well, because that was a presentation that we thought was accurate enough and gave people a very solid basis from which to make a purchase decision. 

If our builds weren't world class, or the pieces that we use to build them weren't as good as you'll find, or our prices were out of line, none of the foregoing would really matter, but since all that stuff actually is in line, really you might want to give us a look because we're honest and meticulous and because since the first second of our existence all that we've been about is transparently providing you with the best solution that we can. 

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Your best post, Dave. I can't think of too many companies that have earned my loyalty, but November is surely at the top of a very short list. I do my best recommending you to everyone and anyone who will listen. Of course, not many people listen to me, but hey, I'm shouting from the rooftops anyway!


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